Definition of 'animals' in Road Traffic Act to be reviewed

Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee said his ministry would review the kinds of animals that motorists must stop to help in accidents.
Senior Minister of State Desmond Lee said his ministry would review the kinds of animals that motorists must stop to help in accidents. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

What's in a name? For motorists who run over an animal and do not stop to help it, it could mean a fine or jail time.

The reason is that the Road Traffic Act, enacted in 1963, defines an animal as "any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog". It requires motorists to stop and help these animals if they knock them down.

But should a motorist knock down other creatures, such as cats or wild boar, an offence would not be committed under this law. This quaint definition will be reviewed.

Meanwhile, drivers who fail to stop and help an animal can be fined up to $3,000 or jailed up to a year, with repeat offenders fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to two years.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee told the House: "The Ministry of Home Affairs intends to review the definition of 'animals' in the Road Traffic Act, and also consider any amendment in the context of road safety, especially the safety of the motorist and other road users."

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) had asked if the ministry would consider updating and aligning the definition of "animals" in the Road Traffic Act with that in the Animals and Birds Act - a move animal welfare groups have sought.

Mr Lee noted, however, that both laws have different objectives.

The Animals and Birds Act aims to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases through animals, control the movement of animals, prevent cruelty to animals and safeguard the general welfare of animals in Singapore. The Road Traffic Act, on the other hand, seeks to protect the safety of road users, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Mr Lee said the specific provision in the Road Traffic Act relating to animals had been confined to farm animals of commercial value.

"The original intent of the legislation was to ensure restitution to their owners should an accident occur," he said.

But should all motorists stop if any animal is hit?

"They should stop, if it is safe to do so. If the motorist requires assistance, he can contact the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline 'Definition of 'animals' in Road Traffic Act to be reviewed'. Print Edition | Subscribe